I've noticed that as College Confidential gains more and more participants, we are seeing more and more threads in April after admission decisions are announced in which a student or parent announces with dismay that all the student's applications to "top" colleges were rejected. In today's competitive admission environment, many high school students with fine academic records will not get into their first-choice college, or their second-choice college, or their third-choice college. That's just a hard mathematical fact. Every year on College Confidential, a lot of participants post in April that they were disappointed in their admission results.
But the end of the application process to your dream college doesn't have to be the end of your college dreams. Anyone applying to a top college (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, Stanford, etc.) ought also be applying to a "safety" college, a college you can count on being admitted to. In previous CC posts, I have defined a safety college as one that
1) is pretty much certain to admit the applicant, based on its known behavior in acting on recent admission applications,
2) has a strong program in an area the applicant is interested in,
3) is affordable based on its known behavior in acting on financial aid applications,
4) is likeable to the applicant.
What college fits the "safety" definition for you? What do you like about it? It's vital to build an application list from the safety college on up, and I appreciate suggestions in this thread about how to do that.
Good luck to the members of high school classes of 2012 and 2013 who are putting together lists of colleges to apply to.